UK: HSE Warns of Dangers of Slips, Trips and Falls

March 16, 2009
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning employers to ensure that their workplaces are safe following the prosecution of Thorntons Plc, a Derbyshire, England-based chocolate maker, after an employee slipped and suffered serious injuries to his hand.

The company was fined £12,000, or nearly $17,000, and ordered to pay full costs of £4,548 (approximately $6,400) March 12 after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to provide a safe system of work.

On Nov. 5, 2007, Ashley Taylor, 23, was standing on a conveyor belt to cool a depositor (which puts the filling into the centre of chocolates), when he slipped on a wet mat. As he slipped, his hand was thrust inside the depositor hopper and into the rotating rollers. Although a trip bar was provided around the hopper, it was not correctly positioned to protect someone standing on the conveyor, and his hand was trapped before a fellow employee could stop the machine. He broke two bones, suffered severe tissue damage and needed the assistance of the fire service to be freed. He has not been able to return to work since.

“In this case, a combination of the wet surface and inadequately guarded rollers led to this injury, which could so easily have been avoided,” said Noelle Walker, HSE inspector. “This is just one of a significant number of accidents involving the cleaning and maintenance of food machinery and companies must ensure that they have the right systems in place to protect their staff from hazardous situations.”

In Derbyshire, more than 700 people were seriously injured as a result of a slip, trip or fall at work last year, with slips and trips accounting for 85 percent of these. Nationally, 61 people died and more than 14,000 suffered serious injury, costing British society an estimated £700 million. These statistics prompted the launch of the HSE's Shattered Lives campaign to raise awareness of the risks that can occur in any workplace.

To help businesses take preventive action, the HSE launched STEP – an interactive learning package that provides practical guidance to help users tackle slips, trips and falls in their workplace.

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